Nowogródek, Martyrs of, Bb.

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Also called Sister Maria Stella Adela Mardosewicz and ten Companions; martyrs and members of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth; S. Maria Stella, b. Ciasnówka, Nieświesk, Poland, Dec. 14, 1888; d. Nowogródek, eastern Poland (now Navahradak, Belarus), Aug. 1, 1943; beatified in Rome by John Paul II, March 5, 2000.

In 1929, Bishop Zygmunt Łoziński invited the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth to undertake the education of Nowogródek's children and care for the Church of the Transfiguration (Biala Fara). There they established (1931) a school. During the Russian occupation (Sept. 1, 1939, to June 21, 1941), the sisters were barred from their convent and school. When German forces ousted the Russians, the sisters again donned their habits and returned to their ruined Convent of Christ the King.

On July 18, 1943, the Nazis arrested and sentenced 120 citizens to execution by firing squad. The sisters were dedicated to serving families and volunteered to exchange places with the fathers of children. The male hostages were released to their families, although some were interned later in German concentration camps. The second time they offered themselves in place of the only remaining priest in the region. On July 31, 1943 the Gestapo ordered S. Maria Stella and 11 of the 12 sisters (one was working in the hospital at the time of the arrest) to appear at the Gestapo headquarters. Without investigation, they were sentenced to death. The order was carried out the next day, when they were executed in the woods five kilometers from Nowogródek. Initially the martyrs were buried in a common grave. On March 19, 1945, Sister Maria Margaret Malgorzata, the only survivor of the community, oversaw the translation of their mortal remains to the Church of the Transfiguration.

Their process was officially opened in 1991. On June 28, 1999, in addition to the superior, S. Maria Stella, the following were declared martyrs: Paulina Borowik (S. Maria Felicyta, b. Rudna, Lublin, Aug. 30, 1905); Józefa Chrobot (S. Maria Kanuta, b. Raczyn, Wielun, May 22, 1896); Helena Cierpka (S. Maria Gwidona, b. Granowiec, Odalanów, Apr. 11, 1900); Eleanora Jóźwik (S. Maria Daniela, b. Poizdow, Poldlasie, Jan. 25, 1895); Anna Kokołowicz (Maria Rajmunda, b. Barwasniszk, Vilnius, Aug. 24, 1892); Eugenia Mackiewicz (Maria Kanizja, b. Suwalki, Sept. 9, 1903); Leokadia Matuszewska (Maria Heliodora, b. Stara Huta, Świecie, Feb. 8, 1906); Weronika (Veronica) Narmontowicz (Maria Boromea, b. Wiercieliszki, Grodno, Dec. 18, 1916); Julia Rapiej (Maria Sergia, b. Rogoczyn, Augustów, Aug. 18, 1900); and Jadwiga (Hedwig) Żak (Maria Imelda, b. Oświęcim, Dec. 29, 1892).

At their beatification Pope John Paul II thanked the martyrs for their witness of love, their example of Christian heroism, and their trust in the power of the Holy Spirit: "You are the greatest inheritance of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth. You are the inheritance of the whole Church of Christ forever." They are patrons of Christian teaching.

Feast: August 1.

Bibliography: a. zienkiewicz, No Greater Love (Pulaski, Wisc. 1968). L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, no. 10 (8 March 2000): 3, 9.

[k. i. rabenstein]